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Procrastinator’s Horror Gift Guide for 2008

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"This is not right at all?" lamented Zombos. He exerted great effort to disentangle himself from the strings of Christmas tree lights tightly winding around him. We were engaged in putting the lights on the tree, but that didn't go as planned.

"I hear putting up a menorah is much easier," I said. "You just plug it in."

I watched in wonder as the mesmerizing, brightly-colored bulbs blinked on and off, bathing him in their warm glow. The cheery colors were comforting even while he struggled helplessly against their ever-tightening grip; the Saw torture devices were not as insidious. I sipped my Toboggon' Egg-Noggin' prepared by Chef Machiavelli, with a dash of rum and splash of lime.

"Perhaps if I unplug the main strand from the wall socket, that might help?" I volunteered. It didn't. Deep within that mess of tortuous cords was the perfect analogy for heaven, limbo and hell. Heaven was definitely your destination, but you're stuck in limbo with hell to pay before you could get there.

Feel that way with your gift-giving? Frantic now that you've wasted all year planning to shop early but didn't? Shame on you. But there's still time, you know. Here are some last minute ideas to light up the weird, scary, and fantastic-loving fan on your list.

ArtsunknownAny fan of Weird Tales and Arkham House is familiar with Lee Brown Coye's monstrous abominations put to paper. His distorted, macabre drawings hint at the abnormal, the unsavory, and the unholy.

In Arts Unknown: The Life and Art of Lee Brown Coye, Luis Ortiz brings us into Coye's fantastic, anatomically-skewed world. This hard cover book is filled with illustrations and insights, giving us morbidly curious a long hard stare into the life and work of a man whose vision pushed well past conventional boundaries. An accomplished muralist and sculptor, Coye is fondly remembered for his vague, but suggestive black and white illustrations for Arkham House editions of Lovecraft's stories.

Ortiz describes the artist's influences, his parents, his upbringing, and his struggle to pay the bills while pursuing his artistic career. Coye's terrifying summertime experience at his grandfather's house, his strange encounter in the stick house in the woods that led to his  motif of rough sticks in many of his drawings, and his morbid sense of humor are captured for posterity, along with his art. From the Great Depression, through a world war, and at five dollars an illustration for Weird Tales, Ortiz captures Lee Brown Coye's defiance of the mundane to become an American original.

GoodnightbookNow I know it would be narrow-minded of me to say that the '50s and '60s were a wonderful time for everyone who grew up then, but I can say with certainty that there was one wonderful part of it that anyone could share in, whatever you were: Zacherley. In Richard Scrivani's book, Goodnight, Whatever You Are!: My Journey with Zacherley, the Cool Ghoul, he reminds us of a time when monsters ruled the nascent airwaves, and Zacherley reigned as the TV horror host with the most, and flaunted it to the horror of many parents and authoritarians.

Scrivani documents Zacherle's start as Philadelphia's WCAU-TV's host, Roland, and the ghastly business-side antics that led to his eventual move to ABC-TV in New York to become the nationally known ghoulish gagster, Zacherley. With lots of photos, and a clever interview format that continues throughout the book, this look at Zacherley's rise to notoriety provides a revealing look at early television, which was a roll-up-your-sleeves time when local stations created much of their own programming and broadcast live entertainment.

GhoulardiYou know someone from Cleveland? Well then, pick up a copy of Ghoulardi: Inside Cleveland TV's Wildest Ride by Tom Feran and Rich Heldenfels. In the 1960's , the hottest show on Cleveland's WJW late-night television was Ernie Anderson's beatnik persona, bad horror movie put-down artist extraodinaire, Ghoulardi, jiving to an internal beat that rocked audiences, especially his younger fans, with his wacky shenanigans. As horror host to some of the worst films imaginable, he warned, "this movie is so bad, you should just go to bed." But his audience didn't go to bed, and instead tuned in as he turned them on with laughs by dropping into a film's godawful scenes by superimposing himself onto the film, hamming it up with his improvisations. Anything and anyone was fair game for his outlandish antics, and making with the boom booms (fireworks) was a highlight of the show until he almost burned the studio down. Comedian Drew Carey paid tribute to Ernie Anderson's Ghoulardi by wearing a faded Ghoulardi t-shirt on his sitcom, The Drew Carey Show.

CrytopediaIt's the explorer, the discoverer in me that enjoys reading about creepy bumps-in the-night; Vampire Universe by Jonathan Maberry and The Cryptopedia: A Dictionary of the Weird, Strange, and Downright Bizarre by Jonathan Maberry and David F. Kramer, are filled with lots of these wonderfully creepy bumps and more.

Both books are filled with fascinating information that can be leisurely browsed through as you sit by the fire, or speedily referenced in case something horrible is rapping at your chamber door. For horror and fantasy writers, they are an essential source of inspirational material. Even if you're not a writer, any horror fan interested in well-researched information about the culturally significant supernatural beings that make up the mythology of a country will not be disappointed. To really know a people, you need to know what they're afraid of. After you read Vampire Universe, you'll be able to make an expert judgment whether to fight or flee. As for me, I'd probably just run like hell anyway; but at least I'd know what was chasing me.

Got an Aztec God problem? Need to know what an Apache Tear is? Crack open the Cryptopedia and find answers. From monsters, to gods, to New Age terrors, it's in there. Keep both books next to your copy of Dictionary of Demons by Fred Gettings, and you'll sleep more soundly at night for sure.

TalesfromthecryptNothing says you really care more to a horror fan than giving him or her those  unwholesomely gruesome terror comics from the 1950s. The EC Archives: Tales From the Crypt, Volume One reprints the first six issues of the legendary EC Comics horror title that did more to scare parents than their kids who eagerly devoured each issue before the Comics Code Authority came along to ruin the fun. Between the hard covers of this oversized book, every wart, decaying zombie, freshly dug grave, and frightened victim is back for more in vivid color, as well as each issue's striking cover and Crypt-Keeper's Corner letter section. Pair it up with The EC Archives: The Vault of Horror, Volume One, and you'll be more popular than the yule log this holiday season.

ThewalkingdeadFor the zombie lover on your list, the ultimate gift is The Walking Dead, Book One. This continuing story of survival horror remains a nail-biting drama as writer Robert Kirkman, and artists Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard focus on the people living a nightmare that never ends. Waking from a coma, the terror is just beginning for Rick Grimes, who must be alert every minute of every day as the zombies prowl everywhere, ready to bite down hard. Meeting survivors along the way, his struggle becomes there's, and soon it's not just the dead causing problems. The black and white illustration is gory when it needs to be, but mostly tells the growing and failing relationships between the people constantly moving to find shelter, food, and a peaceful night's sleep with straightforward style and clarity. Between zombie attacks, heated arguments, lucky chances and bad choices, The Walking Dead is a continuing series that never slackens its pace.

I know what I'll be looking for under my Christmas tree this holiday season.

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About ILoz Zoc

  • Jorge Matos

    The Coye book is a blast. The guy was one weird dude. The story about him taking a severed head to a bar is typical of the many antics he would pull. I think his art really puts some people off, and was way ahead of its time. It is obvious that Coye was not afraid to show visceral horrors in his art. The book talks about how he was working as a medical illustrator and kept body parts around his studio. (Thus explaining why he had a human head hanging around.) This book should get a lot more attention from the horror field, especially the Lovecraft crowd. It’s a full-length bio with lots of art and photographs, including one showing Coye shaking hands with Bela Lugosi. The guy had art in the original, great pulp Weird Tales and in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

  • http://www.zomboscloset.com ILoz Zoc

    “Buy one for my friend” must have shocked some of the bar goers, that’s for sure. I’m surprised myself he hasn’t received more exposure. Much of his work I’m sure was lost, as pulp illustration was usually thought to be disposable. Yet his elongated, twisted anatomy is so suited to bizarre stories, especially Lovecraft’s, work stands out in the horror/fantasy field. His adventure in the stick house and with the “drums” at his grandfather’s house makes him a natural fit for the horror/fantasy field. I wish a larger, coffee-table style book of his work would be published.

  • Jorge Matos

    The stick house in the woods encounter, as described in the book by Coye, is quite creepy and was the source for Karl Wagner’s story “Sticks”. I think the book also mentions how the story may have influenced the filmmakers of The Blair Witch Project. The website of the publisher, http://www.nonstop-press.com, has a notice for a forthcoming limited edition portfolio of Coye art listed. I emailed them to let me know when this comes out.

  • http://www.zomboscloset.com ILoz Zoc

    Super! I’m heading to the publisher’s site now. Thanks!